When you have it all, you need a place to put it all.
Multimillion-dollar yachts need to be docked. The de Koonings have to be hung. And you've got to park the Rolls somewhere.
That's where the billionaire's house comes in.
There's plenty of room for David Geffen's Pollocks and Rothkos along the walls of his 100-room Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion. Paul Allen can dock his 416-foot yacht — the Octopus — beside his Mercer Island, Wash., waterfront property. And there’s plenty of space for Warren Buffett’s Cadillac DTS in the driveway of his Omaha, Neb., home.
In most cases, a 6,000-square-foot home like Buffett's would be considered a mansion, but among the members of the billionaire fraternity it's one of the smallest places on the block.
Bill Gates' Medina, Wash., home checks in at 66,000 square feet, including a 1,000-square-foot dining room.
At 33,000 square feet, Michael Dell's Austin, Texas, pad, not far from the University of Texas dorm room in which the tech giant started his company, is a bit more modest.
And while Donald Trump may be better known for the $125 million Palm Beach, Fla., property he has on the market, his 62,000-square-foot Mar-A-Lago estate is none too shabby. It has a 20,000-square-foot ballroom.
Perhaps most mind-numbing of all is Baron Capital Management founder Ron Baron's record-breaking buy this year. In May, Baron paid Adelaide de Menil Carpenter, an heiress to the Schlumberger oil fortune, $103 million for a 40-acre property in East Hampton, N.Y., shattering the previous residential record held by Ron Perelman, who sold a Palm Beach estate for $70 million in 2004.
Behind The Deals
There are two unique ways in which billionaires facilitate a home buy.
One is to simply ask for it. That's what financier Henry Kravis did last year when he made an unsolicited $50 million offer for a 15,255-square-foot Palm Beach property, which the owner readily accepted.
Likewise, billionaire sellers have found that an under-the-radar arrangement has its advantages. Proposing offers or piquing interest amongst friends can be a lucrative strategy.
"Some billionaires aren't certain they want to sell," says Dolly Lenz, a broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman. "So they'll float a deal where they tell their friends that if they could get X for their property, they would sell it."
In the case of high-profile properties — like the Harkness Mansion that financier J. Christopher Flowers bought in 2006 for $53 million, or the Duke-Semans mansion that real estate mogul Tamir Sapir acquired last year for $40 million — word is sent out that the owners are interested in selling. Prospective buyers will then peruse the property six to nine months before it is formally listed. After all, it's never good for a prestigious home to sit on the market too long, as has been the case with the $70 million Pierre Hotel penthouse that has been on the market since 2004.
Three years may be a long time, but with the summer over and prime billionaire buying season upon us, that penthouse may soon find a buyer. That's because unlike the ordinary housing market, which spikes in the spring and ebbs in the fall and winter, trophy properties usually come off the market toward the end of the year.
"Activity takes off in December and January for trophy properties," says Jonathan Miller, president of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel. "This is when the bonus money is announced and starts percolating through Wall Street."